Saturday, August 26, 2023

 Fixer Upper

In 2013 Chip and Joanna Gaines aired their first ever episode of “Fixer Upper” on HGTV.  The episode lasted for 43 minutes and in that astoundingly brief period of time, Chip and Joanna were able to fully renovate a young couple’s home.  In less than three quarters of an hour the home went from drab…to fab.  In an interesting contrast my parents purchased their own fixer upper in 1980.  In a mere 43 YEARS later…they have been able to…keep working on it.   

During this past winter, my retired parents sent me a series of photos of their extensive kitchen remodel. In their 43 year old “episode,” this has become their second or third kitchen remodel.  I am sure that many of you can relate to their story, especially if you are a home owner that has lived in the same space for 20 or more years.  This is all the more to be expected when you consider that the home that my parents are “still” fixing up  happens to be more than 100 years old to begin with. 

Many of my childhood hours were spent working on this “fixer upper.”  Before the enforcement of child labor laws, I was sent onto the roof to shingle the roof…by hand.   It is likely that I, as a 6th grader, secured between 0 and 100 shingles…single handedly. 

As with any remodel, or “fixer upper” project there comes a time when a job arises that takes particularly specific skills that only a few craftsman have.  Even as a 5th grader, I had obtained some of these skills. 

“Ryan…I have a job for you.  It is a job that only you can handle.  Are you up for the job?” my dad asked.

“I guess…can it wait until after Bugs Bunny?”

“No! Come here!”

“What do you need?”

“I need you to crawl into this 3 foot dark and dirty crawl space and glue this piece of insulation board to the inside of that concrete wall on the opposite side.”

“Why can’t you do it?”

“Because I no longer weigh…  Because I am too bi….  Because I am not smal…  Because my waist is too…  Because it is a hard job, in a hard place and only you can do it.”

“Well…ok…since you put it that way.”

That day…I did a hard job…in a hard place…and I would like to think that was the day that I became a man.  However, 7 years later when my dad wanted me to enter into that same crawl space to run some wires, I realized that I too had grown too large to fit.  It became clear that it was now my little brother’s turn to become a man.    

My dad has a way of bringing young boys to manhood by sending them into the nether regions of small hard to reach places.  Several years ago, my own son, (12 years old at the time), was sent into an attic crawl space by his grandfather…to do that which my dad or I could no longer do. 

Life is filled with hard tasks in hard places. Yet, just because something is hard to do…or perhaps involves going into a hard place, doesn’t mean that it is not worth doing.  I find that God has designed each one of us to do hard things in hard places throughout our lives.  For some of us the hard places could be a middle school classroom, for others it could be bat-infested attics, while yet others it could be being sent to the jungles of Gabon…if in fact there even are jungles in Gabon…which I really don’t know. 

May you see the hand of God leading you to do hard things in hard places, while remembering that it is HE who has given you the power of His Spirit to accomplish what he has for you to do. Phil. 4:13

Saturday, August 5, 2023

The Plug

I recall one fine fall day during my middle school years.  My 3 siblings and I had just stepped out into the crisp, autumn afternoon air, which was a staunch contrast to the stale, rotting smell of body odor which permeated the yellow bus of our recent departure.  It was the kind of day that made you feel fresh on the inside.  You know the ones…the kind of a day that puts a smile on your face and just makes you happy to be alive…and no longer in school.  The four of us entered our home to find our father standing there to our left.  He was working inside the baby blue bathroom with the door open, wearing a defeated scowl on his face.  He had a blue toilet lying prone on the floor by his feet.

“Two pickles,” he grumbled.

It was an odd greeting to be sure.

“What was that Dad?” I asked.

“Argrmmmph,” he replied through clenched teeth.

“Dad?...What are you doing with the toilet?” These were the words of my older brother.


“No thanks…I’d rather have cookies.” These were the words of my younger brother.

“Why…why…why?” He continued to grumble.

“Can I use the potty daddy? I really have to go to the potty! Can I go to the potty now daddy!?” These were the words from my baby sister.

As we entered the kitchen we found our mother.  She was sitting alone at the kitchen table.  I could not tell if her face was red and embarrassed or white with fear or blue with sadness.  I figured she must be feeling especially patriotic.  Yet, her words spoke otherwise.  She too was mumbling…“I thought…they seemed like the same size…I figured why not?  Pickles aren’t THAT big…there were just two of them…there wasn’t a turd…I mean third.”

Needless to say…two pickles was two too many.

The legend of the pickles has remained a topic of levity, remorse, inspiration and as a sober reminder of what NOT to do with two stale, dill pickles left unwanted for too long in the refrigerator.  Despite the lessons of the pickles, I have still found myself in a similar position as my father, caused by a variety of clogs and plugs in my own Olson home.   I have battled clogs from grease, hair, toothpaste…and well…you know.  In most cases, a plugged sink or toilet will eventually empty itself as water slowly passes through the clog.  When the clog is finally cleared…it is kind of like flushing the toilet…well…it is exactly like flushing the toilet.  Whether it is a newly cleaned sink drain, tub drain or plunged toilet the water goes screaming through the pipes like snot from a sneeze. 

I see this phenomena playing out in a much darker picture within Paul’s writings in 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12.  Here we are confronted with the mystery of the “Restrainer.”  We know very little about who or what this restrainer really is, but what we can see is that God is restraining the flow of evil into the world where we currently find ourselves.  Yet, one day, that restrainer will be removed, and when the restrainer is removed evil will be free to gush and flow in all of its lawless horror.  Praise God that this will be for just a short time. 

In the meantime, may we find the truth of God’s word, and relish that God is still at work restraining evil as we anticipate the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.